San Francisco is one of America’s great cities with a wealth of things to do and see. I’ve been fortunate to call the San Francisco Bay Area home for the last 6 years. If you are planning a trip to San Francisco here’s some tips and a list of favorite things to do.
It’s a little creepy as you peer into cells that housed some of America’s most dangerous criminals but the tour is engaging with sights you’ll recognize from the many Hollywood movies filmed there. Not only is the history fascinating but the island is beautiful with an amazing view of the city skyline. Tip: the ferry ride & visit will take most of a day. Book online in advance. Space on the ferry is limited and often sells out. http://www.nps.gov/alca/index.htm
Union Square Shopping
In the heart of downtown, Union Square offers shopping that runs the gamut from Target to Barney’s. Most of the major brands have stores there including Burberry, GAP, Gucci, Armani, Tori Burch, and Levi’s. Westfield Shopping Center is enormous and everything an upscale downtown mall should be. http://unionsquareshop.com
Bike Trip Over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito
From downtown take a cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf and rent a bike from one of the many vendors there. Follow the bike trail west with great views of the bay & Alcatraz, then stop at the Golden Gate Pavilion before crossing the bridge. Once in Marin follow the signs to Sausalito, a charming seaside town filled with shops, cafes and restaurants. Rather than ride back to the city, take a ferry which delivers you to the Embarcadero and a short ride back to Fisherman’s Wharf. http://goldengatebridge.org
Napa & Sonoma
The 2 most famous wine growing regions in California are about an hours drive north of the city. Worth an overnight stay if food, wine, and rustic rural scenery is your thing. Tours are available from the city if you don’t want to drive. The Napa Valley Wine Train is a fun way to see the area. http://www.napavalley.com | http://www.sonomacounty.com | http://winetrain.com
Haight Ashbury / Golden Gate Park
Haight Ashbury is an eclectic neighborhood of shops & restaurants that immediately transports you back to the days of flower power, incense, and music on every corner. Start at Central Ave and stroll the 6 blocks to the entrance of Golden Gate Park. The park itself is a beautiful place to walk with an opportunity to visit the California Academy of Sciences, de Young Art Museum, and the stunning Japanese Tea Garden.
Sutro Baths and the Pacific Ocean
Lands End is the western most point of the city and features the historic Sutro Baths with wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean. Heading north and east from the visitor center is a lovely walking trail with panoramic views of the entrance to San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. http://www.parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/lands-end.html
San Francisco is best scene by walking. From downtown you can head in any direction and explore wonderful neighborhoods including, Chinatown, North Beach, the Embarcadero, Hayes Valley, Fillmore, Mission and Castro. Guided walking tours are a great way to learn about the city, its history and architecture. http://www.sfcityguides.org
About a 90 minute drive from SF, you can take the Pacific Coast Highway with it’s magnificent ocean views and surfing beaches or take Highways 101 or 280, then 85 and 17 through Silicon Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains. Once in the area highlights include the Santa Cruz Boardwalk & Pier, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Whale Watching, 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach, and Carmel. http://www.seemonterey.com | http://www.santacruz.org
San Francisco has a unique micro climate that makes summer the 2nd coldest season. The key is to dress in layers as you can easily go from t-shirt to sweaters and jackets over the course of a day. Daytime temperatures are typically in the 60’s or low 70’s. Once outside of SF it’s a different story with average temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s, except along the coast.
San Francisco is a walking city with a good public transportation system consisting of buses, street cars, subway (BART), taxis, and ride share. There is no need to rent a car if you are planning to stay in the city. Overnight parking is expensive and traffic is congested. If you are planning to travel outside the city, rent a car for those days only. http://www.sanfrancisco.travel/transportation
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